Gun Safety Solutions May Backfire

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With almost every publicized incidence of gun-related violence in America, there is a louder cry for gun control.

In examining some of the proposed solutions, CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart found the leading presidential candidates are high on gun locks, but that critics think politicians are not seeing the whole picture.

Governor George W. Bush thinks gun locks are such a good idea, he'd give them away if elected president. Vice President Al Gore would even require that a lock come with every new gun.

And both men think "smart gun" technology -- the kind in which a gun will only fire for its lawful owner -- is so hot they'd spend millions more on its development.

But even as the candidates and more and more state legislatures turn to new technologies to solve America's gun problem, critics say they're overlooking one simple fact.

"With proper care and feeding a gun can last forever,” says Josh Sugarmann, Director of the Violence Policy Center. “So if smart gun advocates are thinking that the old guns are going to wear out, and this will be the next generation to replace them, they're mistaken.”

In fact, not one of the proposals offered by the candidates, and not one of the recent laws passed by the states, would have any impact whatsoever on the 192 million guns already in American homes. Only new gun purchases would be affected, even though a gun made 100 years ago will kill you just as dead as one made tomorrow.

Just ask James McCoskey, a retired general and gun enthusiast who has some rather old firearms among his collection of nearly 100 pieces. “Oh, they all work.”

And in the most recent example of old guns never fading away, McCoskey says the military is returning to an 89-year-old .45 caliber pistol.

"Some special units are still clinging to this because there's no finer military handgun ever made. There's no question about it - it won't die."

As for police-sponsored gun buyback programs, they typically collect only old and broken firearms. Under this plan it might take decades to whittle away at the nation's gun supply.

And in the meantime, guns like the one a first-grader got from home to kill his classmate with earlier this year wouldn't be affected by trigger lock laws, because it was an old gun, and not a new sale.

And as for smart gun technology, critics now worry that people will be led to think guns are safe enough for any home.

“One survey found that 35 percent of people who never considered buying a handgun would consider buying a smart gun,” says the Violence Policy Institute’s Josh Sugarmann. “What's happened is gun control advocates have unwittingly helped the gun industry create a new market.”

And it’s a new market so big that Colt Firearms alone estimates it could probably sell 60 million new handguns if it could advertise them as safer, and smarter— firearms or the future.